Ephesians 4:11 – Who's Sent?

Business problems and supportApostles, Prophets, and Evangelists go out on mission, Pastors and Teachers are supposed to stay put.  At least that’s the sentiment of many within the church.  Actually, it’s quite a hurdle to get people to accept that there are indeed still Apostles, and Prophets walking around.  I try to make it easier or more palatable sometimes by saying that there are those within the body with the “characteristics” of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers, but admittedly that line of thinking is a bit weak and undercuts the import of equipping saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, for unifying those in the faith, for contributing to others for their maturity and ours, and for attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  (Ephesians 4:11,12,13)

Of course I’m given a bit more latitude because I’m a “crazy missionary” living and working in a context that no one else will, and one that is still breaking new gospel ground.  It’s almost permissible to hold to a more “apostolic” ministry because we’re bringing the gospel to where it’s not known and naming Jesus amongst people where He has not been named.  Additionally many have not seen a bible, read it, or know what it is.  It’s almost acceptable that I still cling to my antiquated notions that some are still acting all prophetic and apostle like. 

But, that’s not what we’re here to talk about exactly.  For the rest of this post, I’ll just assume that there are all five giftings alive and well amongst the body of Christ.  I’ll also assume that each of these are sent or are capable of being sent.  When it comes to evangelists, it’s a no brainer.  Of course they’re sent!  Someone’s got to “go” and preach the gospel to all of creation.  But, if the church by its ignorance or by some other diabolical ulterior motive seeks to excise apostles and prophets, then it’s only left with 2 possible types of people to send, namely evangelists and pastor-teachers.  And again, pastor-teachers are supposed to stay put, so that leaves only the evangelist to do mission.  Wrong…Wrong…Wrong!

A Pastor’s heart is one that is disposed to mission.  If someone is pastoral, then he/she will leave the secure flock and go on mission to find the one’s.  The one’s are those who are lost, who have been separated from the flock, or those who need to be loved back into fellowship.  The Pastor can also be sent to watch over the flock in a different sphere.  A pastor is not excluded from being missional or living as sent.

Back to apostles and prophets.  Let me share from “the real world” of missions.  When we begin ministry in a new community, we identify which of the Ephesians 4:11 people gifts are most needed as catalysts to create an environment disposed to the making of disciples and the gathering and fellowship of the same.  If they need a prophetic kick in the pants, then so be it.  If they need someone with an apostolic disposition to envision, imagine, and facilitate how the Kingdom looks in their context, then again, so be it.  We’ll decide amongst ourselves which of us, operating in our gifts, are best suited to meet the present need of any given community and send them.  Here’s an important point.  We decide collectively.  The Pastor doesn’t get to decide alone who is sent and who is not.  In fact, if any of the five giftings are better equipped to commission and send, it would be the apostle.  Don’t you think?  But none of these, have a weightier “authority” over the other.  Do they? Every community is assessed and matched up with the ones that can best address their short or long term needs. Each community is different.  This form of collective and probing ministry has contributed to the amazing movement happening in our context.  Every part of the body, or pre-body needs every other part of the body acting in accordance with its gifting.  Each of the types of people listed in Ephesians 4:11 are sent.  Some are continually sent and some are sent for seasons.  Some stay put and other stay in motion.  Some are sent elsewhere to stay put, and some are sent with perpetual sent-ness.  A few questions:

1.  Should Pastors stay put?  

2.  Seriously, if you don’t think there are apostles and prophets anymore, why not?

3.  Assuming that all 5 gifts are still functioning in the church, do any have authority over the others?






0 thoughts on “Ephesians 4:11 – Who's Sent?

  1. William Floyd says:

    All of the people who I’ve met and are called primarily to the role of a pastor seem to. This makes sense as one of the hallmarks of the calling is to be a friend to a group of people, that friend who gives counsel, shows mercy, looks out for everyone, etc… This is the type of calling which is built and in s way reliant upon relationship.

    2. There are both still. Unfortunately few recognize the person actually called to the role of a prophet of God and fewer still to the role of an apostle of God, in part due to the confusion caused by such terms as ‘apostolic’ and ‘prophetic’. There’s a difference between someone who may prophesy and one called to be His prophet. Just like there’s a difference between a missionary and one chosen to be His emissary.

    3. Having authority over others is a dangerous way to understand the type of authority that a man or woman of God is to walk in. The type of authority which we are to walk in is an authority based upon recognized character, maturity, and grace. Role plays into at times. But only so much as the authority being exercised relates to an individual being an agent or mouthpiece of God. Authority isn’t meant to exact compliance to an individual. It’s meant to gain compliance to an individual as they act or speak for God.

    • Miguel says:


      Thanks for your comment. With regard to point 3, you’re right the sort of authority often espoused from these passages is couched in the very idea that these are “leadership” gifts. Everyone always wants to know who’s in charge in church circles and force the issue.

  2. Carlos says:

    Hi Miguel,

    I am curious…what is the basis for your apparent belief that any of the gifted ones listed in Ephesians 4:11 have authority in the church at all?

    I see no mention of authority anywhere in Ephesians 4 or for that matter in the whole book of Ephesians if I am not mistaken.


    • Miguel says:


      If you look carefully, I never state that any of the Ephesians 4 people have authority. I do, however, ask if they do twice.

  3. Carlos says:


    Another comment if I might…

    You mention an equipping role for these four or five gifted ones (depending on whether one sees pastors and teachers as two separate gifts or not)…I’d like to question that “acceptable” interpretation.

    How does a pastor or pastor/teacher equip me as a prophet (that’s one of my gifts unless I am very mistaken) to be a better prophet?

    How do they equip a tongues speaker to better speak in tongues? Or one with a gift of mercy, administration, or what have you to operate in their gift?

    In my thirty some odd years of having to sit and listen to sermons I have never felt equipped to do a thing through the teachings. Instead I have felt straight jacketed with tape all but put over my mouth.

    Is it not Jesus Christ through His Spirit that equips us all?

    Am I to believe that we MUST sit under a Pastors teaching in order to be equipped to do ministry? In whose absence we end up hopelessly deficient in being able to operate in our respective gifts?


    • Miguel says:

      Carlos, who pastors a prophet? Who evangelizes a pastor? Who teaches an apostle? I think these are valid questions and speak to the interdependency of these functions within the body. If we don’t think about the pastor as defined by modern terminology, but as one who actually pastors, then it’s easy to see how someone pastoring can equip a prophet. Don’t you think?

      • Carlos says:

        Hi Miguel,

        Let’s set aside the modern concept of a shepherd then and look at it from an ideal role of how a shepherd is supposed to function with the Body.

        How can someone who actually shepherds and doesn’t just give sermons on Sunday’s equip me for example?

        I still don’t see it Miguel. How exactly do they equip me? Teach me truth? I can get that from God and quite frankly often get far more from Him than I have ever gotten from pastoral (oops I meant shepherding :)) teaching times.

        May I suggest a different interpretation for Ephesians 4:11 than an equipping role for these gifted individuals?

        It’s a bit involved to lay it all out scripturally but let me just say that I am coming to believe that the gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11 are simply a listing of gifts to represent SOME gifts among many (rather than some gifts among few – namely the five) through which the Lord equips the Body for ministry.

        In other words it’s not the five (or four) equipping the rest of us at all. It’s rather the Lord equipping us all in the Body through gifts overall (among which these five or four are a representative sample) to allow us all, working as a Body, to minister His love to others.

        It’s a subtle but profound difference but one which I believe there is very strong scriptural support for. Not only in the immediate context but especially if you compare Ephesians 4 with Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 and break down what Paul said into equivalent sections.

        This interpretation makes far more sense to me in my spirit than the one that says these gifts are uniquely given to the church to equip the rest of us for ministry (such that if any of these gifts are missing we all go around hopelessly unequipped until we find ourselves some shepherd, or apostle, or evangelist, or teacher to give us some equipping in a very give me, give me perspective – which ironically is exactly the perspective most church “goers” have today).

        If you think about it the whole equipping the rest of us for ministry notion falls apart under the truth that most of these gifts are missing from the church at large today. Such that the shepherd role has now exalted itself to speak not only teaching but with the voice of prophecy from the pulpit as well as to evangelize the lost (who are brought into church).

        Is such “equipping” really going on?

        I mean how is it that we have come to believe that Ephesians 4:11 is talking about equipping the rest of us when the only one left supposedly equipping anybody in most churches today is the shepherd (pastor for those of you who like to talk Latin :))?

        How can such “equipping” be equipping at all when 4/5ths of those supposedly equipping everyone are entirely missing??!

        Are we hopelessly lost in a state of not being equipped fully by the one gift still operating in most of the church?

        I think rather that a more correct interpretation (again in context and otherwise) is that Jesus equips the Body through ALL the gifts to do the ministry He calls the Body to do.

        That makes more sense to me.

        It’s Christ not shepherds or apostles, evangelists, or teachers who equips us all. And it’s not through some gifts to the exclusion of others who don’t equip but are on the receiving end.

        Jesus all the way. To His glory and honor.

        Not to the glory and honor of a shepherd as the ONLY gift left to equip everyone else such that we all MUST get equipped by the shepherd or lay around deficient in ministry effectiveness.

        Don’t get me wrong. A shepherd has an important role in the church but it’s alongside of others (not above them). ALL of whom, including the shepherd, are working together as a Body to minister to others as Christ expresses Himself through ALL the gifts (including the five) given to the church.

        Does that make sense? I’ll put something up at my site that goes into this far more than I can reasonably post here as far as laying out the detailed scriptural support.


      • William Floyd says:

        Who ‘pastors’ a ‘pastor’? One who is respected as mature and a friend. Who evangelized a pastor? That’s a question that can fall out a whole lot of different ways. Who teaches an apostle? The Lord, personally and actually. When it comes to being a prophet, one called primarily as a pastor can only help a prophet grow as a prophet so far, because the nature of the calling of a prophet has an aspect which a pastor can’t really relate to. A pastor can’t help a prophet understand the calling, the giftings, the grace which accompany the calling of a prophet as another prophet can.

        When it comes to the “first apostles, second…..” The order is a demonstration of the grace given to those called to these callings. An emissary has more grace meaning deeper understanding, more powerful giftings in varying areas, a deeper level of maturity, etc… Differing levels of power, training, maturity, etc… are found to accompany the callings and gifts shared through Paul in that Scripture.

  4. Carlos says:

    Sorry about not noticing more carefully what you said about authority Miguel. Thanks for correcting me on that.

    Incidentally I am not saying that any of these gifted ones don’t have authority in the church only that no connection to their authority per se is found in Ephesians 4 is all.


  5. When it says, first apostles, second prophets, etc., I think it’s not talking about order of importance or of authority, but more when the gifts are needed. So apostles are usually first on the scene, plus prophets (built on the foundation of apostles and prophets). The other gifts emerge/appear later. What do you think?

    • Miguel says:


      That’s an interesting proposition. I happen to agree with you that none of these should have authority or better yet superiority over the others, but within certain time constructs or seasons it may simply be a matter of priority.

      I’d like to get feedback from others developing this idea and I will meditate on it. Hope this response finds you well.

      • Morgan Bush says:

        Not that it matters, but the Greek construction of that passage is a chronological first, not a pre-emptive first.

  6. Carlos says:


    The follow me box is once again blocking the view of what I am typing on my iPhone making it all but

    ti comment here.

    cant see what i am typing.

    Carlosimpossible to c

  7. Carlos says:

    Hmm…box went away on a page reload…never mind.

    Felicity…I hope you don’t mind me giving input on your question but I don’t think it’s Scripturally accurate to say that these gifts are first in order of need such that if a gift is not as needed at any particular point in time what Paul said about a gifts relative order no longer applies.

    I think the order Paul mentioned is an order of influence within the Body.

    Apostles and prophets, evangelists, and shepherds (I don’t want to keep speaking Latin if I can help it so I want to stop using the word “pastors”) are more influential in a general sense for building up the Body than say a tongues speaker without interpretation for example.

    Order of influence for the well being of the Body (but not in an absolute sense such that if one is missing the Body goes around disabled or something) not order of need or order of status.

    I hope that makes sense.


  8. Carlos says:


    I figured out the box “problem” for what it’s worth.

    If I accidentally hit the Follow button, the box will not get out of the way no matter what I do. I must hit the Follow “tab” or “button” once again to make it go away.


  9. Morgan Bush says:

    As I understand Ephesians 4, the main work of all 5 is the equipping of the saints, correct? So, they are sent to the saints, and their work is to impart to the saints the uniqueness aspect of Christ which they have been given. The work of the pastor, then, is to impart to the saints an understanding of God’s love and concern for those within the Body. Similarly, the work of the evangelist is to impart to the saints an understanding of God’s love and concern for those outside the body.

    But as to your specific questions:
    1) No.
    2) I have no doubt all 5 are alive and well.
    3) What do you mean by authority?

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